I started this horror blog around six months ago, so I felt it was time to share the movies that have scared me more than any others. The titles I chose are not scientifically the scariest movies ever made. This list represents the movies that have had the most impact on me or caused the most legitimate fear. I won’t go deep into the plots of these for this post, but please seek them out if you feel inspired and let me know what you think!
Whether you agree with me or feel the urge to laugh at me, enjoy the tour of my Top 10 Scariest Movies:
#10: Black Christmas (1974)
I watched this for the first time during the 2020 holiday season. I must say…it thoroughly freaked me out. One of my biggest fears is home invasion, and, as a former college student, I really saw myself in these characters and their situation. Another huge fear of mine is the manipulation of corpses, or turning a dead person into something else after death. The antagonist in this story (“Billy”) does that to his victims in the attic of the sorority house and makes disturbing phone calls to the women who live there throughout the movie.
The worst part, though: they caught the wrong guy at the end. Not only that, but the killer is still in the house, hoarding the bodies of his victims. Some movie endings leave you with your jaw dropped well into the credits…this was one of them for me.
#9: Pet Sematary (1989)
This was one of the first classic horror movies I ever watched. I came into it expecting to not be scared at all…I was incorrect. In addition to adequately showcasing Stephen King’s nuanced writing that made the book so scary, the writing, performances, and pacing of this movie maintained that emotional layer that pulls you in. You experience the turmoil of each moment with the characters, even when you know what comes next.
#8: Get Out (2017)
I’m pretty positive I watched most of the scary movies that were released in 2017 (the year of It by Andy Muschietti and Mother! by Darren Aronofsky), and Get Out by far was the scariest of them all. With its intricate characters and storyline addressing the deep-rooted issue of objectifying and manipulating Black bodies, this film is the epitome of slow-burn horror. I have rewatched it multiple times, but I will never forget how this movie affected me the first time.
#7: Psycho (1960)
Psycho has been present in my lineup of favorite horror films for well over a decade. The art direction, composition, and execution (no pun intended) have not lost their impact on me in the dozens of times I have rewatched it. I find something more to love with every viewing. With all of its balanced elements and unsettling details, it is simply a masterpiece of horror cinema.
Yes, that shower scene still gets me every time.
#6: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This film is a great example of real-life horror making its way onscreen. I personally prefer the movie to the book, which does not happen often. Much like Psycho, this film uses the general viewing audience’s discomfort around nonconforming gender expression to develop the antagonist. This is a common (not to mention dangerous) tool used in many horror narratives. The issue of this trend is something I have studied before and will definitely address in later posts.
From my perspective, however, the presentation of Buffalo Bill’s identity is not what disturbs me. Buffalo Bill is simply a terrifying character with his intentions in the film, especially to any young Midwestern women watching (me). The multifaceted narrative and performances in this film are astounding, and I find myself watching intently and clenching a pillow every time despite the fact that I have it practically memorized.
#5: Halloween (1978)
Another formative classic for me was the original Halloween by John Carpenter. Of all the iconic horror villains, to me Michael Myers is the scariest. His silence, stillness, and potential to be anyone, anywhere is exponentially more frightening than anything supernatural.
I spent twelve years of my life in a small town, and literally the only thing I liked about it was its resemblance to the setting of this film in the fall. No matter how many times I watch this one, the POV shots and eerie music still affect me the same as they did the first time. Also, Laurie is my favorite final girl ever because she still fights even when she is beyond terrified (you go, Laurie).
#4: The Shining (1980)
I know how Stephen King feels about this adaptation of his 1977 novel, and I completely respect that. Looking at it on its own, however, The Shining (1980) is one of my favorite horror films of all time. It is opulent and eerie, not to mention claustrophobic and domineering at the same time. This is another one I cannot look away from no matter how many times I rewatch it. The best time to enjoy this one is while it’s snowing outside. Trust me.
#3: Hereditary (2018)
I find this movie more delectable every time I watch it. Dealing with issues of grief, trauma, mental illness, and deep-seated familial conflict, there is so much more going on than a few creepy nighttime shots and decapitation. I still have to pause this movie to catch my breath every few scenes; *that* scene with the telephone pole will never cease to leave me speechless.
As the viewer, you feel yourself spiraling with the characters in their despair. As for the more traditional scare factors, I find myself keeping the lights on a while longer after finishing this movie. You never know what might be watching you from a dark closet (or the ceiling).
#2: The Babadook (2014)
I shared this story in one of my previous posts, but I will gladly share it again: the first time I watched The Babadook, I was living alone in a college town in the middle of summer. I planned the whole thing out: I watched it in the morning, blinds open on a beautiful Athens, Ohio summer day, I had my coffee and pajamas…I was prepared.
I still slept with the lights on for three weeks.
I should mention I lived in a big student apartment meant for four tenants. Being alone for weeks in such a place, this movie had me jumping at every shadow and creak. Although I did not know it at the time, I was living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. My symptoms that were already exacerbated by living alone in a big place with empty rooms (not to mention that I did not start treatment until years later) took on another layer of anxiety loops after experiencing the invasive terror of this film.
I honestly find this movie pretty funny when I watch it now, but it had a major effect on me when I watched it for the first time. Its dynamic and moody approach to a horror narrative changed my perspective on what horror could be. I applaud everyone involved in this for creating something so impactful and deeply terrifying.
#1: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Everyone with whom I share this thinks I’m joking. I am not.
It took me over twenty years to watch this movie again, and it has been the cause of even recent nightmares. My childhood was plagued by debilitating nightmares from this movie, specifically of a certain cackling bat. I experienced major anxiety at even the mention of it. I avoided it, including pictures, audio, even fan art until just a couple months ago out of fear that it would trigger some deep and dormant fear response in my mind. Again, I wish I was kidding.
In my defense…this is basically a horror movie.
Let’s take a look at the stats:
- Jump scares
- The entire movie takes place at night
- Vincent Price is in it (he did Ratigan’s voice)
- Murder & attempted murder
- Attempted drugging
- The entire toy store scene
- The entire Big Ben scene
- Spooky shots of London streets at night, complete with fading shots that bring us closer to what the villains are up to
- Eerie music accompanying said shots
- General scary images with the villains (Fidget & Ratigan are a tag-team of nightmare fuel)
I blame this movie for my sensitivity to jump scares and my repulsion toward humanoid characters in horror (human-animal hybrids, specifically). To be fair, I have come to really enjoy it now that I have rewatched it multiple times. It is pretty fun and admittedly underrated for a Disney movie. I still have not watched the two major scare scenes, but I am working up to it.
I define the scariest movies I have ever seen as those that have affected me the most in experiencing lasting fear or discomfort. Therefore…the G-rated cartoon mouse movie is my #1.
I hope you have enjoyed taking this journey with me, and I would love to know what perches atop your own list. Comment below or connect with me on social media (links in the ‘Social’ tab)!
Until next time,